Hafemeyer Law

What Should I Tell My Attorney?

The short answer to this question: everything! Anything you tell your attorney is privileged, meaning the attorney can’t reveal that information without your permission.

Err on the side of telling your attorney everything – even if you think it paints you in a negative light. It is much better for an attorney to know the negative information in advance than to be surprised by it in Court. If we know in advance, we can decide together how to paint it it in the best light.

Who is the Estate Planning Client?

When a client comes to me for estate planning, sometimes other family members want to be a part of the process. This is particularly common when there are adult children involved.

I take my job very seriously when I am drafting wills or other estate planning documents. The client is only the person signing the will – not any of the beneficiaries. I usually ask adult children to wait in the lobby while I talk to the client to make sure it is that person’s wishes included in the will and avoid any undue influence.

I will occasionally get calls from the children of past clients requesting changes to the will or power of attorney documents, and some become angry when I can’t do what they request. Only the person signing the will or power of attorney can request and sign for changes to the documents.

When Does My Child Support End?

I am often asked about when child support ends for a child who turns 18.  The child support statute says that child support ends when the child turns 18 or while the child remains enrolled in secondary school and is under the age of 20.  Put much simpler, the child support obligation ends when your child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever occurs second.  For example, if your child turns 18 in February, your obligation will end with your payment in June.

If you have more than one child, the support obligation is not automatically modified when the older child turns 18 or graduates high school, however.  Generally, in order to modify a support obligation, the resulting obligation must change $75 and 20% from the current obligation.  In order to modify a support obligation, you must have a new order, which can be through an agreement or following a hearing.

Can I Keep My Car if I File Bankruptcy?

I am often asked by potential bankruptcy clients whether it is possible to keep a vehicle after filing bankruptcy.  The short answer is YES!

If you lease your car, you can either redeem or reject the lease through your filing – either keep the car and the lease OR get rid of both.

If you own your car and do not have a loan, it is your asset.  We can usually protect a vehicle in a bankruptcy, but that exact analysis would need to occur after reviewing all assets.

If you own your car and have a loan, we look at the equity in the vehicle to make sure we can protect that asset.  Since vehicles are depreciating assets, most have little or no equity if there is also a loan.  The loan company may require a reaffirmation agreement for the loan.  You can also choose to return the car and discharge any liability for the loan.

Stepparent’s Rights Following Adoption

Your spouse can adopt your child through stepparent adoption.  You will need the biological parent to voluntarily terminate parental rights, if there is a presumed parent.  If there is no father listed on the birth certificate, no Recognition of Parentage signed, and no order establishing parental rights, you can likely accomplish a stepparent adoption without the consent of the biological parent.

But what rights does this give the biological parent?  Following a stepparent adoption, the biological has no further rights to contact the child unless there is a visitation schedule included in the adoption order.  The biological parent no longer has any obligation to pay child support.

What about the stepparent?  The stepparent is now treated as though the child is biologically the stepparent’s child.  Your child now has inheritance rights to your spouse’s estate in the event of death.  It also means that your spouse has rights to custody and parenting time, and possibly the obligation to pay child support, in the event of a divorce.  You should carefully consider the status of your marriage before allowing your spouse to adopt your child.  The adoption is not “undone” as part of the divorce; your spouse will continue to be the legal parent of your child.

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